The oil and gas industry is a demanding, dangerous field. According to NIOSH, it has a fatality rate that’s more than seven times higher than the rate for all U.S. workers. OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels rightly points out, “When it comes to workplace fatalities and injuries, the only acceptable number is zero.” Companies are implementing better safety programs to meet this goal. It’s important not to view these programs as another box to check on an employee’s to-do list.
The advantages of sound safety programs to workers extend beyond the operational and financial benefits. Safety training programs are not solely designed to save lives. In the bigger picture, these training programs improve the overall quality of lives -- job stability, job satisfaction, and physical, mental and emotional benefits. These are incentives to an improved safety culture.
Training builds value
Oil and gas is a rigorous field renowned for innovation. Employees who can drive progress are a company’s most valuable asset. That said, oil and gas is also a highly competitive field with a great demand for skilled talent. Companies seek well-educated, specialized workers to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Participating in safety training programs can increase workers’ attractiveness to current or potential employers, position them for upward mobility, and enhance their skills. There’s no substitute for experience, but involvement in these comprehensive programs demonstrates an oil and gas worker’s motivation to grow. It also builds their professional equity and ultimate value to employers as they gain better decision-making skills and knowledge.
For example, workers who pre-test equipment during safety training programs practice smart and fundamental safety behavior. They also become familiar with equipment nuances, helping to eliminate frustrations they might encounter during operation. This working knowledge simultaneously boosts their confidence in their job performance and increases their productivity and efficiency. Plus, one worker’s observation of another’s intelligent safety practices helps cement these routines into a company’s safety fabric.
The mental challenge
In an industry where “12-hours-and-counting” workdays are common, the oil and gas worker community requires a solution. The World Health Organization describes stress as the “health epidemic of the 21st century.” According to a 2016 study by the Indian Journal of Science and Technology, stressed oil and gas workers seemed “to be less intuitive in their jobs, less engaged and more likely to report day-to-day health problems such as depression, headache and muscle pain which leads to more chronic diseases.” They are also “more likely to get exasperated easily [and are] unable to cope up with their daily chores in the job and have mood swings.”
Promoting safety training programs in tandem with a strong wellness culture helps guard against or manage these stressors. Large corporations are beginning to dip their toes into these types of innovative training programs to target problem areas, which range from work/life balance issues to interpersonal relationships among employees.
Recently, an independent U.K. oil company incorporated mindfulness training as a part of its safety programs. These training regimes range anywhere from weekly classes with guided meditation to daily stretching practices, depending on the main stressor. In an oil and gas environment, these methods can help improve attention spans and relieve stress at its roots, while positively impacting mental health and overall work performance. Practicing and leading a stress-free lifestyle not only increases productivity, but also helps mitigate errors caused by inattentiveness.
The emotional challenge
At the end of the day, practicing safe habits has a domino effect. Engaging in safety training programs can create bonds between supervisors and their employees, and among a peer group, which increases both worker loyalty and employee happiness. Not only do these programs build an open dialogue between upper management and their employees, but they demonstrate to workers that upper management has invested in their well-being. This makes them feel valued and want to promote the company’s growth. Workers who are given the opportunity to learn and grow tend to be more effective at their jobs, and remain highly engaged within the company. Plus, group involvement can instill a fraternal-like connection between participants as they come to understand how their behavior directly impacts others in the moment.
At an even more basic level, there’s nothing as valuable as a worker’s safety. While professional growth and success are admirable ambitions, the ultimate goal—and strongest argument for stronger safety—is to stay safe for those whom you love and those who love you.
Safety training isn’t just key for career and company growth; it’s an essential component to ensure employees and individuals lead a happy, healthy life both in and out of work. Tangible or monetary incentives might certainly be appreciated in the moment, but the advantages of developing professional equity, improving mental health and knowing you’ll safely return to those who matter most each night pays unlimited dividends.
• NIOSH oil and gas risks
• OSHA “Renewing Our Commitment to Worker Safety”
• Huffington Post article on healing workplace stress
• “2016 Study on Job Stress Among Offshore Personnel in Oil and Gas Extraction Industries” by the Indian Journal of Science and Technology
• www.rigzone.com “Mental Health Awareness Increasing Among Oil & Gas Industry”